Martin among MADD’s Legislators of the Year

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

PICKENS — State Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens is among 70 lawmakers across the country who have been recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for their efforts in authoring legislation designed to crack down on drunk driving.

Martin was recognized for authoring three separate Senate bills related to alcohol server training, improving field sobriety test requirements and improving the interlock law.

Fellow South Carolina state senators Joel Lourie and Brad Hutto, as well as state representatives Rick Quinn, Ralph Norman and Anne Thayer, were also recognized by MADD.

“You need a strong advocacy group like that, and they’ve filled a need,” Martin said. “I think our alcohol-related driving statistics still reflect a strong concern, but we’re working on that. We’re not turning away from that.

“It affects every one of us driving down the road — you never know when you’re going to encounter one of those drivers.”

Martin said one of his bills allow for a convicted drunk driver to have an interlock device on their vehicle that prevents them from driving while drunk.

“It enables those folks to continue to work, but restricts their ability to have any alcohol at all,” he said. “This does not analyze blood alcohol levels, but detects any alcohol (which prevents the driver from using the vehicle).”

Martin said the bill he introduced regarding road sobriety tests, which he hopes will be passed during the upcoming legislative session that begins in January, could circumvent “some very strange court rulings made in the past.”

“They seem to believe the statute requires the person to be visible in the video the entire time,” Martin said. “If they’re walking along the edge and stumble out of camera view, we’ve had some cases dismissed since the motion said the statute required a complete video.

“We’re trying to bring an element of common sense. If you have a BAC where the driver is obviously drunk, there should be no absolute requirement. If they’ve been caught on video for part of the time and given ample justification for the arrest through a field sobriety test, that should be sufficient.”

The issue of powdered alcohol was also addressed in legislation led by Martin that banned its sales in South Carolina. As a result, 25 other states have joined the Palmetto State in passing similar legislation.

“I think it is common sense,” Martin said. “Powdered alcohol has so much potential for use and misuse, especially for young people, and we don’t need another substance on the market that is going to create issues for our young people. There’s no shortage of alcohol for people to buy, and we don’t need it in another form.”

MADD was founded 36 years ago by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. According to its website, the organization is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to protect families from drunk driving, drugged driving and underage drinking.

MADD also supports drunk and drugged victims and survivors at no charge through victim advocates with the organization and its 24-hour victim helpline at 1-877-MADD-HELP.

In spite of proactive measures taken by MADD to reduce DUI and the deaths that often result (cut in half since the organization was founded in 1980), statistics show there is still much work to be done.

Statistics provided by MADD include the following: each day, people drive drunk almost 300,000 times, but fewer than 4,000 are arrested; almost half of all drivers killed in crashes and tested positive for drugs had alcohol in their system; almost one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders; and drunk driving costs the United States $199 billion a year.

MADD says the public can also take action to advance lifesaving legislation by going to